Ergonomics – understood as the study of interaction between human beings, technology and the working environment, in order to find an optimal organization in terms of health and comfort for the workers and for productivity – in every working environment it plays a fundamental role.
If we take into consideration jobs where It’s necessary to stay in the same position for long periods of time, we can understand how ergonomics and posture are closely related to each other.
The position in which one remains, together with the static stay time, with possible interruptions, influences a great deal the comfort of the operator, thus provoking potential long- and short-term physical ailments.
Dentists are, without doubt a risk category in these terms. Over the past few years there have been many studies carried out regarding postural ergonomics and, of the role that it must play when planning spaces and for a healthy and efficient way to work.
The risks involved with staying in a position that stresses the muscular, skeletal system for extended periods of time in an unbalanced way are numerous and statistics show that around 65% of dentists and dental assistants complain about discomfort, pain or disturbances that, in some cases end up slowing down or even preventing operators from doing their job.
The majority of damage is seen, above all to the back, neck and shoulders, subject even to possible real microtraumas, but can also affect arms and hands, for example leading to carpal tunnel syndrome and the like.
All of this can have direct consequences on stress levels and therefore relapses on mental and psychological well-being. Awareness of all of this, however, has come about over the last few years. Often the principal obstacles with the ergonomic approach are, in this sector like in others, from the resistance to change, from wanting to work in the same way as always or acting too late by which time the first symptoms connected to postural problems have already started to show.
The above assumes a greater importance if one takes into consideration that general ageing of the population leads inevitably to an increase in the world of work in all sectors, including dental and medical, thus it is strategic to consider the comfort of doctors and operators along with those of patients.
In order to facilitate this change also cultural, various studies have been carried out that, using calculations by means of electrodes (electromyography) have shown as the static load level on the part of the body more stressed in these jobs is high and it increases as the hours increase in which the operator stays in the same position.
The solutions that can be adopted in order to tackle all of this, with successful strategies, are numerous and interconnected.
Studying the best position in a working environment, taking frequent breaks, alternating between standing and sitting, organising proper lighting, doing targeted physical exercise during one’s free time, in order to prevent postural problems. These are all elements that if fully implemented can help preserve the health of the muscular apparatus – bones of dentists and operators.
Besides the more general requirements, it is easy to understand that the equipment and, in particular the design of the dentist chair play a fundamental role in reaching a more correct ergonomical posture during a visit to the dentist, in particular related to the correct positioning of the spine and of the freedom of movement.
The study of these products, only stems from an “interactive design” approach, that focuses on ergonomical science, or rather the interaction that must take place between the user and the equipment.
At the basis of the best ergonomic posture is the pelvic position of the doctor/operator using the dental chair. This really depends on the state of the spine that, in order to avoid excessive overloads on the shoulders, neck and back, one must remain in a neutral position. Considering a static and relaxed type of seated position, the general requirements apply, which recommend being seated with the thighs parallel to the floor and with the hips at a 90 degrees angle.
Over time however, these indications, that were commonly suggested to dentists and hygienists have been exceeded by more modern and thorough scientific studies, capable of taking into greater account the peculiarities of these jobs. The need to move and in particular to lean towards the patient, make it in fact an incorrect position as it creates a starting point that risks causing damage to the discs of the spine. The more modern approach, precisely for this, recommends that the hips are in a raised position compared to the knees.
In particular, the angle between the trunk and the knees should be the same or higher than 110 degrees. The parts of the body resting on the chair should be on the flat part and the thighs on the oblique part of the chair, that is, downward sloping. The thighs should remain open with a varying angle between 30 and 45 degrees. The upper part of the body in this way can reach an optimal position, with the sternum raised and the shoulders aligned with the pelvic bone.
Immediately above the latter should gravitate to the centre of the weight, on the spine, never positioned in an excessive concave or convex way.
Arms should never be kept in a too forward or unbalanced upwards or downwards position. The upper part of these should never move away excessively from the trunk and the forearms should be in a vertical range between 10 and 15 degrees compared to the parallel position on the floor. Lowering too much means that the head and neck are in an unnatural position. Excessive side movements however affect the correct position of the shoulders.
Lastly, the most natural working position, is that permitted by a working area, positioned considering the line symmetrically dividing the right and left part of the body.
Other requirements regard, for example the height and the depth of the chair, that should be adjustable depending on the characteristics of the operator. The chair should not have any edges so as not to create imbalances in the buttock muscles, weakening the stability of the pelvic bones. The type of upholstery must not be too soft or too slippery. The backrest must have an adequate lumbar. The lateral back muscles, in a correct posture, should not have any contact with the lumbar during patient treatment. However, chairs should have rests that can be used during downtime in which the patient can relax by reclining the seat.
The fundamental principal that guarantees the correct ergonomical posture in the chair is, basically, the fact that the body of the patient must be able to move freely and not vice-versa. Once this criterion has been respected, other further adjustments can be made. Another tip to follow could be, for example to alternate different chairs throughout the day. Avoid staying for long periods of time in the same position, however ergonomically correct, is always a good idea for one’s health.
Patient’s chairs are by no means excluded from the above. First of all, from a psychophysical well-being point of view and for the fact that a more comfortable and at ease patient is more forthcoming/co-operative and facilitates/speeds up the procedure, but also a correct patient position, in an adequate chair, allows the dentists and assistants to adopt a correct ergonomical posture during treatment.
Also, in this respect, there has been significant resistance in moving towards an approach focused mainly on a patient’s comfort to one that takes into account the correct ergonomical posture for dentists and operators. This does not mean that the first aspect should be neglected, respecting the design of the chair criterion that guarantees first of all a correct blood circulation and a position that does not create discomfort to the muscular-skeletal apparatus of the patient. But this cannot mean projecting chairs that ignore or even hinder comfort and consequently the health of doctors and operators.
From this point of view, the main rule that should be followed in positioning the patient is that the eyes and the head of the doctor/operator should never be put into the condition of following the position of the hands.
Basically, the entire space should be planned and organised in accordance with current criterion and using high quality equipment. All of this has inevitably beneficial effects from the impression perceived by patients, present and potential, relative to the organizational capability of the practice, the reliability and the will to keep up with the times.
The Tecnodent product range for the dental and medical sector has been projected taking into consideration ergonomical and postural needs and the importance that these two aspects have when creating a space that can offer the highest level of comfort, therefore facilitating the work and the well-being of everyone involved, without having to sacrifice the aesthetic impact and design.
All Tecnodent chairs, used in dentistry, as well as medical and beauty, have been studied in order to adapt to all seated work positions, combining functionality, hands free and comfort, with a correct position of the spine.
Innovative, elegant and of reassuring design, offering bespoke customization and a wide range of adjustment options. Every user should be able to find a perfect solution on the basis of their own needs and physical characteristics. The wide range of Tecnodent products allows one to choose among classic or even futuristic designs without having to sacrifice robustness and compactness.
The high standard of comfort and functionality and the guarantee of respect of the principles that define a correct ergonomical posture, remain the same for our range of chairs for patients that, compared to operators, present a higher range of specificity and possible different characteristics. Needs vary on an age basis, for example, treating a geriatric patient or a child is obviously very different. In the same way the situation changes when the patient is disabled or with restricted mobility, bariatric, or simply patients with different heights. Whether they are classic chaise lounge models or more contemporary and versatile versions of the Knee break models, the quality and the type of experience that Tecnodent offers is of a high level.
Quality that comes from continuous commitment in research and development and constant attention to updated debates and scientific progress. Our objective is to meet the needs of our clients, but above all to be able to raise awareness on key criterion wherein it is crucial to make a strategic equipment choice that really does make a difference on everyday work.